The fortnight in brief, 27 December 2010–9 January 2011 – a summary of recent postings

January 9, 2011
Richard Kuper

jfjfpLet’s start with the good news for a change, for the bad is very bad.

JfJfP has sent its congratulations to Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj, founder of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme in 1990 and in the forefront of efforts to promote national reconciliation between rival Palestinian political groups; he has just been awarded the Olof Palme Prize.

A new group called Gaza Youth Break Out has issued a hard-hitting manifesto of protest “Fuck Hamas. Fuck Israel. Fuck Fatah. Fuck UN. Fuck UNWRA. Fuck USA! We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community! We want to scream and break this wall of silence, injustice and indifference… We want three things. We want to be free. We want to be able to live a normal life. We want peace. Is that too much to ask?”

A new biography of Judah Magnes – passionate advocate of a binational state in Palestine who died a few months after the creation of the State of Israel –  has appeared. Laurence Zuckerman writes: “Daniel P. Kotzin’s “Judah L. Magnes: An American Jewish Nonconformist” is not the definitive, magisterial work, but it is almost something better: a concise, readable and evenhanded survey of Magnes’s life and ideas that is a must-read for anyone committed to understanding American Jewish life and resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli satire is alive and well. Bradley Burston’s ‘A special place in hell’ envisages how the messiah would be treated should be make the error of returning. It is bitter and incisive:

“When the Messiah comes, the first sign will be a gag order.

When the Messiah comes, rabbis will treat him like Jesus. They will brand him disloyal, diseased, Reform.

In wall posters, Sabbath sermons, ritual decrees and signed petitions, careful not to use his title, chief rabbis of cities and towns will warn of an existential threat to the essential Jewish character of the state. Under no circumstances are Jews to sell or rent homes or lots to someone like this. The rabbis’ wives will vilify him as a carnal threat to Jewish girls.

When the Messiah is crucified, the army will deny that he was even present at the time.”

And Eretz Nehederet (It’s a Wonderful Country), Israel’s most popular and most iconoclastic satire show, has produced a short video imagining education at the right-wing Hope kindergarten. It is terribly close to the bone…

That’s the good news.

Israel’s headlong rush towards McCarthyism, a relentless search for the ‘enemy within’, continues unabated. First they came for the anarchists…

Jonathan Pollak was sentenced to three months in gaol for protesting about the siege on Gaza: “Your Honor, once found guilty, it is then customary for the accused to ask the court for leniency, and express remorse for having committed the offense. However, I find myself unable to do so. From its very beginning, this trial contained practically no disagreements over the facts. As the indictment states, I indeed rode my bicycle, alongside others, through the streets of Tel Aviv, to protest the siege on Gaza… The subject of my alleged offense, as well as the motivation behind it were political. This is something that cannot be sidestepped. The State of Israel maintains an illegitimate, inhuman and illegal siege on the Gaza Strip, which still is occupied territory according to international law. This siege, carried out in my name and in yours as well, sir, in fact in all of our names, is a cruel collective punishment inflicted on ordinary citizens, residents of the Gaza strip, subjects-without-rights under Israeli occupation…”

Matan Cohen, interrogated at Ben Gurion airport, was told: “We merely were warned that you are suspected of terrorist activity,” which means they have to go through his bags, they said. After the examination, he was taken back to the policeman, who said, “If it were up to me, I would let you go already. I’m waiting for a telephone call from the head of the Jewish department.”
Cohen: “[Am I] a suspect in something?”
Policeman: “You’re not a suspect. You’re suspected.”…

A further step was taken in the intimidation of Israeli human-rights and peace groups when a proposal to establish a parliamentary investigatory committee to examine such groups was approved by the Israeli Knesset. Gideon Levy, Jonathan Pollack, Michael Manekin, Avraham Burg, former speaker of the Knesset, and others inveigh against it. And Uri Avnery asks why the funding of right-wing groups is exempted from scrutiny: “If a serious inquiry committee investigates the financing of the extreme right, it will discover that much of it comes straight from the pocket of the American taxpayer. That is one of the great scandals: the US government is financing many of the settlements…” A late mailing from Jewish Peace News, just in, contains an excellent commentary on all of this and links to five additional, hard-hitting critiques of this latest erosion of Israeli democracy. You may think you’ve read enough, but you are urged to make the effort to face up to the full horror of what is taking place in Israel by reading these additional commentaries.

Jawahir Abu Rahmeh died at Bil’in, apparently poisoned by tear gas. The IDF, with thousands of deaths attributed to it without demur, is suddenly outraged at being accused of this one. All part of the plot by Palestinians to present themselves as victims of a stronger occupying power that acts with impunity; as there is no truth in that how can the IDF be responsible for this death?

Human Rights Watch and other organizations have demanded a criminal investigation into the death of a 20-year old Palestinian patient, unconscious and desperate for medical treatment, who was denied a permit by Israeli Authorities to leave Gaza.

A fragile ceasefire holds in Gaza, but it can’t last: “Although it was not my usual custom, I made a point of kissing my children every night,” one young father from Gaza City told me. “I never knew which of us would still be alive the next day, and I wanted to say goodbye properly.” Amira Hass – an Israeli journalist who lived there for three years – reports on the unbearable tension of life inside the Gaza strip.

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